Boothbay company to build advanced electric motor boat with European partners

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Boothbay-area boatbuilder Hodgdon Yachts has agreed to build the Lion, a 34-foot all-electric motorboat. A prototype, shown here, was built for Vita Yachts in the UK. Photo courtesy of Hodgdon Yachts and Vita Yachts

The first practical and safe motorboats were electric and were used to ferry attendees to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. But the nascent electric trains were soon replaced by the internal combustion engine, with emissions, noise and the resulting water pollution.

But there is a movement in the marine industry for a return to electric power. Boat builders have come out with electric models of recreational motorboats, sailboats, yachts and commercial vessels.

Maine boat builders have recently joined the movement by bringing electric power to the luxury market. Hodgdon Yachts is the latest to undertake an electric motor boat project. Boothbay shipyard has been selected to build a high performance 34ft electric yacht for Vita Yachts of the UK

Named the Lion, it was designed by Vita using its all-electric V4 propulsion system, with a peak power of 590 horsepower, a cruising speed of 22 knots and a top speed of 35 knots. It was designed by BorromeodeSilva of Italy, who had worked with Vita on a previous electric prototype, the Vita X, inspired by classic boat building traditions.

The Lion will have a starting price of around $926,000, according to media reports, with additional charges for upgrades.

“Our vision was to create a boat with no compromises in terms of user experience, performance and functionality, while ensuring the least possible impact on the marine environment in which it operates,” said Rory Trahair, CEO of Vita’s Yacht division. “This collaboration with Hodgdon combines our engineering innovation and their centuries of top-level craftsmanship to produce the most advanced electric motorboat built to date.”

INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION

Hodgdon Yachts is renowned in Europe for its work on superyachts and, founded in 1816, it is known as the oldest boat builder in the world. Audrey Hodgdon, sales and marketing manager for Hodgdon Yachts, said the company was chosen as the builder because of its high build quality and reputation in the international market.

“This is a new, cool and exciting project for us and also for all segments of the industry,” she said. “There is heightened focus across the state and also across the market on a desire for quiet, zero emissions, more reliable boating, all of course electric. … Electricity is new, but Maine boat builders are on the cutting edge.

In 2017, Maine boatbuilder Hinckley launched the world’s first all-electric luxury yacht – the 28.5-foot “Dasher” with two 80-horsepower electric motors and two BMW lithium-ion batteries that can be charged with two 50 amp cables.

Currently, Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston is working with San Francisco Bay Area startup Navier on a 27-foot electric hydrofoil boat. With a range of 75 nautical miles, it is presented as the longest range electric boat in the world. It is expected to be unveiled at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October.

The Lion’s fame is its high-speed charge. Trahair said the four lithium-ion batteries, with a total capacity of 240 kilowatt hours, can be charged in one hour in direct current and in five hours in alternating current. A prototype of the Lion was built and launched in 2020 in the south of France, where a network of these high-speed charging stations already exists. Vita has partnered with Aqua Superpower, which is committed to building a global marine superpower network.

Marine high-speed DC charging technology is relatively new and not yet available in Maine, Hodgdon said, adding that expanding such stations is a “chicken and egg” situation.

“There are no charging stations if there are no electric boats, but there cannot be electric boats if there are no charging stations,” he said. she declared.

BATTERY-POWERED LUXURY

The Lion can accommodate up to eight passengers in its cockpit, which can be configured into a U-shaped dining area. Behind this, a large sundeck allows for sunbathing and swimming, with a shower and a ladder. The closed cabin includes a double bed, a day head (toilet) and a sink, as well as storage. The boat also has a touchscreen control system and a Fusion sound system throughout the boat.

Unlike the Navier boat, which uses hydrofoils to optimize range and efficiency, the Lion is designed to closely resemble traditional boats, and although it is constructed primarily of carbon fiber and fiberglass, it does not is not particularly light.

“It’s not the most optimized boat when it comes to the materials used to build the hull and the deck and that sort of thing because the batteries are so heavy,” Hodgdon said. “It really only does you good to try to lose weight somewhere else.”

However, she said, using high-density batteries, which the Lion uses, is more effective at maximizing range than trying to achieve the lightest possible construction.

Working with the electric powertrain will be a new experience for the company, but Hodgdon said the design is comparable to work it has done in the past. Vita and BarromeodeSilva have intentionally retained the styling and design features of a conventionally powered dayboat to help customers go electric without compromising their boating experience.

While other electric boat companies incorporate “wacky” futuristic design features, Hodgdon said that’s not the approach taken for the Lion.

“The way Vita approached it is that there’s a reason people enjoy the boats they enjoy, so instead of trying to change it completely, let’s keep it like a conventional boat, but give it back -the electric,” she said.

Hodgdon is in the early stages of construction at its Boothbay location. The first boat should be completed next year. Trahair said the Lion will be available for purchase directly from Vita in the US and Europe.


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